Defense ignites Central to victory

By Josh Michael –

WOODSTOCK– Central used a strong defensive effort and 3-point shooting to down the visiting Manassas Park Cougars, 53-24, in Bull Run District action Saturday afternoon.

The Falcons held Manassas Park to single digit point totals in each of the four quarters and just 12 total points in each half to headline their strong team defensive effort.

“We really wanted to make an effort to clamp down, keep them out of the paint and force some tough shots,” Central coach Brandon Shields said. “It’s been a season long process and we’re finally starting to get to the point where we can stop people a little bit.”

The game was never really in doubt for Central as they set the tone early holding the Cougars to just four points in the first quarter and despite some shooting struggles, the Falcons finished the quarter on a 10-2 run. Those shooting struggles were largely due to the fact that Manassas Park came out in a 2-3 zone defense and Central quickly began to settle for 3-point attempts.

“They played zone to start, and we should have gone inside-out a little more, but we were fortunate to hit a couple [3’s], and enough to get a lead and force them out of it,” Shields said.

Central began to knock down shots and combined with their defensive effort, the Falcons pulled off a 21-5 run to build a big lead. Senior Travis Cooper was a big part of that run both offensively and defensively as he was all over the court. Cooper led all scorers with 15 points, and when the Cougars battled back to get within 15 points in the fourth quarter, Cooper reeled off six points as part of a Falcons 14-0 run to end any threat of a comeback.

“We knew we wanted to come out and move the ball around, and we’re getting out of a slump right now and starting to play good,” Cooper said.

Cooper was one of five Central players with at least five points, and seven Falcon players had at least two points.

Senior Ricky Neff had 11 points, all in the second half, for the Falcons, and eight of them came at the perfect time for Central. Leading by 13 at halftime, Central knew the game was far from over, and despite some shooting struggles in the first half, Neff kept at it and came out on fire to begin the second half as he score eight of the team’s first 10 points in the third quarter and helped pad Central’s lead.

“We didn’t want to come out lackadaisical and just go through the motions, we want to play all four quarters and for the most part we did,” Shields said. “[Neff] provided an energy boost, and in turn that increases your energy on the defensive side as well.”

The score may not have been close, but the crowd still got into the game, especially after senior Zach Herbaugh ignited the gym with a break-away dunk in the third quarter. According to Shields, some extra warm-up time with some kids prior to the game may have helped, as Herbaugh was dunking on a 8-foot basket while playing with the kids earlier in the day.

“We’ve been trying to get Herbaugh to dunk all year, but he hasn’t had the best of luck, but we finally got him open for one,” Cooper said.